When I think about the things that stress me out, missing a flight is right up there.
A couple of weeks ago I was watching one of my favourite shows: Britain’s Busiest Airport: Heathrow (yes, I am an airport show fan). A Belfast girl was in mid-meltdown because she had missed her flight; coincidently the last flight to Dublin. An airport staffer asked her the blunt question, ‘Why are you getting so upset?’ I wanted to know as well. I mean, no one had died. But this girl had a million things racing through her mind and they were all spilling out of her eyeballs. Her mum was waiting for her on the other end, the new flight would have to be paid for, there were no more flights that day, etc.
I’ve got so many stories about missed flights.
There was that time Tiernan, Jack and I watched a girl in a pink bunny onesie and her father pounding on the door to the Poznan flight airbridge in tears. And then there was the time it happened to me…
When I visited Japan with Tiernan, I missed my flight home. And you know what? The world did not end. It was my fault and there was no insurance policy in the world that could cover it.
Looking down at my watch on the train to Tokyo Narita I became very aware that I was not going to make the check-in cut off time for my Cebu Pacific flight to Manila. After the initial panic that was the realisation of missing a flight, we went into repair mode. When the train pulled in, we legged it up the stairs to the departure hall, but it was no use. The staff had packed up their desks and gone. Only 15 minutes, too late. I checked the departure board. There was another Manila-bound flight with Philippine Airlines leaving within hours of the original flight. With a sigh, I pulled out my credit card and marched over to the ticket desk. NZ$400 later, I had my ticket. I checked in immediately and cleared security. While I was waiting for the new flight to board, I sat by the Cebu Pacific gate and watched everyone boarding onto my original flight. So close, and yet so far.
Why do we panic? Flights are EXPENSIVE.
Often, the further you fly, the more you’re investing to get there. And I don’t know anyone who actually enjoys wasting money (and I hope I never do). Most likely you’re really kicking yourself for wasting money. Not only have you missed a flight you’ve paid for, but now you have to go and buy some last minute tickets from a travel desk! We all know that last minute flights are ten million times more expensive again. Your head has started spinning and you begin to feel a little sick in your gut.
So what do you do when you find that you’ve missed your flight?
#1 | Don’t Panic
Forgive yourself as soon as possible. You’re allowed to dwell for a moment and be sad. But do lose yourself. This is an entirely solvable problem. You’re not the first person to miss your flight today and will not be the last. Whether you read the times wrong or your taxi broke down, life happens. And today, it happened to you.
Let’s move on.
#2 | Visit the ticket desk for your airline
Now that we’re all calm, head over to the airline’s ticket desk. Talking to your airline should always be your first port of call. Your airline is not legally obliged to put you on the next plane if you have missed your flight because of circumstances outside of their control (like traffic delays). You may have to pay a penalty to get onto the next or a subsequent flight.
#3 | Contact your insurance provider or tour operator
Depending on why you have missed your flight, insurance may cover it. Strikes, a car accident, transport delays: things like this may be covered. Get on the phone and call your insurance provider to find out what your options are. Hopefully, you will have read the small print when choosing your policy. The policy document will outline what is covered and any circumstances that are not covered (like travelling to the airport in your own car, traffic jams unrelated to an accident, or oversleeping).
If you booked your trip as part of a package through a travel agent or operator, call them. Depending on why you missed your flight, they might be able to offer assistance. At the very least, they should be able to give you advice.
#4 | Shop around or pay your penalties
The amount you will have to lay down to fix the problem will depend on the complexity of the trip you’ve booked. Are you just starting your trip or are you heading home? Is it just one flight or will this affect another connecting flight later on?
If you have missed the outward flight on your trip, you most likely will have to re-book the return flight as well. Bummer, I know. But do not assume that you will be able to show up for the original return flight.
Before you pay your penalties with the same airline it is worth considering if any other airlines fly to your destination? If you have the time, price match before you purchase. You could do a quick search on Skyscanner to check times, airlines and costs.
Once you’ve decided what option to pay for – just pay it and get it done.
#5 | More about missed connections
Has missing one flight sent you into a spiral of missed connections?
If it was all booked on one ticket, you will be able to sort that all at once. Multiple bookings with multiple airlines will mean you have to dedicate some time to getting those flights changed. More money will undoubtedly apply.
Did you check-in and still miss your flight? Too much time in duty-free, eh… Your bags may get to your destination before you do. In this case, you should try to contact baggage claim at your destination.
#6 | Contact any hotel or transfer services you had booked
Let them know you’ve missed your flight. Think of poor Jeeves waiting for you at the end with the limo. He needs to get home to his family tonight, too.
#7 | Check-in to your new flight early
You’ve missed one light, so you won’t be keen to do it again. If you have to wait overnight for another flight, find local accommodation so you can get back nice and early for your new flight.
Did you know that airlines are not liable if you miss your check-in deadline because the queue is long? That’s why they say 3 hours international, mateys.
#8 | Treat yourself
After you’ve cleared security, have a coffee or a pint before your gate is announced.
#9 | Prevention is the best cure
Here are some tips to prevent you from missing your flight in the future:
- Leave a generous amount of time to get to the airport. Allow extra time during the holidays or peak times for the airport.
- Use an app to manage your travel docs
- Use your phone calendar to set alerts for when you need to leave
- Google the airport layout. How long does it take to get from one end to the other?
- Check in online
- Get decent travel insurance with a missed flight option
- Carry emergency funds
- Even the most prepared person in the world can get hit with the missed flight misfortune. Don’t beat yourself up too much!
Have you ever missed a flight? Tell us how much it sucked in the comments.